Design Review of Former Floyd School Plan Gets Positive Response

A Design Review hearing for the development of the former Floyd School brought a positive response but no decision from the Derry Planning Board.

Vice-Chair John O’Connor conducted the Feb. 4 meeting in the absence of Chairman David Granese.

The project is for a 20-unit townhouse development and is being proposed by Extended Realty LLC. The property is PID 26232 at 37 Highland Ave.

In the absence of Planning Director George Sioras, Planning Assistant Elizabeth Robidoux said that Extended Realty first came before the board a year and a half ago with a proposal to redevelop the current school building into 19 apartments. It subsequently changed the concept to the 20-unit townhouse complex, Robidoux said.

Karl Dubay, an engineer representing owner Eric Spofford, said the project has gone before the Technical Review Committee and the Conservation Commission. With the new concept, he said, “My clients have worked extremely hard on buffering, landscaping.”

The property is on 1.7 acres and has town water and sewer, Dubay said.

After study, he said, Spofford decided to remove the old school and put up something “more suitable to the neighborhood.”

Each townhouse-style condo will be 1,100 square feet and have two bedrooms, he said. “This project is not amenable to families with school children,” Dubay added.

Dubay said the landscaping will follow the standards set forth in the proposed amendments to the multifamily housing ordinance, including counting “green space” and “recreational space” separately.

“We are not double-dipping,” he said. “We will have 51 percent green space, more than the required 33 percent, and also 15 percent recreational space.”

There will be almost 70 trees on the property, including 10 “street trees” and 31 “building perimeter trees.”

There will be 2.5 parking spaces per unit, again reflecting the revised ordinance, he said.

Dubay said he has also “shaved” some of the slope from the private road in the development. “It’s still a few points above the maximum, but we’re going to apply for a waiver,” he said.

The townhouses will have two living levels and a basement, and they will all have energy-efficient LED lighting, according to Dubay.

He said the Extended Realty team met with the Conservation Commission for a site walk and the Commission alerted them to the presence of bittersweet, an invasive plant, on the property. “We are going to remove that,” Dubay said.

The residents of the complex will be responsible for their own snow removal, through an association, and their own trash removal, he said, pointing out that the Derry Transfer Station is “just around the corner.” Having large Dumpsters is an invitation to a problem, Dubay said, with non-residents throwing items inside.

O’Connor asked Dubay if the line of sight on Florence Street is sufficient, and Dubay said he has had a couple of meetings with the Highway Safety Committee and the design team is working on that.

“There is an existing retaining wall in the right-of-way that limits sight distance,” he said.

He is proposing a one-way in and out driveway and said he thinks Highway Safety will support that. There is very little traffic on Florence Street, Dubay said.

O’Connor also asked about a proposed 340 feet of upgrading to Highland Avenue. Dubay said the plan is to connect into the Highland Avenue utility system. “We will have ‘trenching’ and overlays to do, and Mark L’Heureux (the town engineer) suggested we just go from one end to the other,” Dubay told the board.

In the public hearing portion of the meeting Craig Bustie, a resident of Highland Avenue, characterized the proposal as “awesome” and better than the earlier apartment proposal. But he was concerned about sight and noise from the condo complex. “I don’t want to stare out at a parking lot,” he told Dubay.

Dubay said the developer is putting in as many trees as he can but the town is also concerned about sight distance.

Bustie asked if the trees would absorb the noise. Probably not, Dubay responded, but noted the parking lot circulation plan will cut down on noise.

“I don’t want you guys to change your plan because of me,” Bustie said, adding, “But that parking lot is sort of ‘in your face.’”

Dubay and Spofford said they could put up a stockade fence and relocate a driveway.

Bustie also asked what the time frame was and Spofford said he estimated four months after final approval of the plan.

O’Connor asked about drainage and Dubay said the new plan provides more drainage, with an infiltration and overflow basin at the “top” of the lot and another one for the five units facing Florence Street.

“It has excellent receiving soils,” Dubay said of the lot.

O’Connor asked about the flood zone and Dubay said it was across the street and would not be affected with a 25-year storm or a 50-year storm. “Maybe with a 100-year-storm,” he said. “We’re working with Mark on that.”

L’Heureux said he was working with the VHB engineering firm to assess the impact. “It’s another set of eyes,” he said.

The board did not vote on the proposal because it was a design review, but O’Connor said, “It looks phenomenal. We’ll vote on it when you come through with the site plan.”